Seven Steps to Harnessing Referrals
Solution provider account executives, salespersons and business development specialists are all looking for the little magic blue pill of success. Many are coming up short. There is a gusher of leads and referrals available. You just need to go find the gusher and harness its energy and resources. Here are seven steps to get started.
Where is the gusher of leads and referrals? It is not far away, it simply starts by opening your eyes, ears and paying attention to happenings around you.
Every person I have met has his or her own circle of trust, even if we are not even aware of it. From our own service engineers visiting with clients daily, salespersons who are working finding solutions, accounting representatives working with clients to ensure bills are settled and all the way to the executive offices, every single person has a network and with the right care and nurturing, these personal networks can provide an endless stream of qualified prospects. Are we leveraging this network to its true capacity?
Like a gushing oil well, if you fail to do the necessary maintenance it will eventually dry up. Your business network must have care and attention every single day. In my experience, putting the needs of my network first before the needs of my own business has resulted in amazing results.
In his Endless Referrals book, Bob Burg mentions Sonia Cooper, an Account Executive with BellSouth Communications . Cooper states: “Put the needs of your customers, prospects, and referral sources first…and your paycheck will follow.” A great lesson in caring for personal networks and the success that follows when the needs of others are strategically placed before our own.
Our goal in business must be to figure out then master the art of creating and building an endless supply of referrals, which originates from multiple sources. Referrals, which come from outside your company, within your company and from all other sources must be the aim of everyone in your organization.
In the new world economy, everyone on your team is a salesperson, a consultant and in the client service business. Zig Ziglar states, “All of your staff can allow a network to blossom or implode. All members of the team need to respect each other’s personal networks.” Client services that create an immediate WOW, combined with a feeling of something special will win every time over some striving to aim towards a customer satisfaction rating of satisfied. It is all of our jobs to WOW our network, prospects and clients daily.
Seven Secrets to Success
How does one create a circle of trust and influence that feeds them a bottomless supply of referrals and opportunities? It starts with these seven basic principles:
1. Treat people how they want to be treated – going above the traditional saying of treating people, as you want to be treated. It is important to treat people in the manner they want to be cared and give them the attention they deserve. It starts with understanding your client or prospect, putting their needs first and making sure everything your team does is in their best interest. The old saying of “walking a mile in the client’s shoes” comes to mind, are we walking in our shoes or the shoes of those whose business we are serving.
2. You are not selling – Even if you are in sales, when you are networking, never be selling. Your network is not interested in buying your solutions or products; this must never be your goal. Your goal overtime is to tap into your network’s circle of trust and areas of influence. You must build a team of walking and talking ambassadors. When a client of your network colleagues has an issue your solution or product fits, the lead comes to you first and only to you. It is all about creating stickiness with your network, being front of mind. This only comes by being genuine in your business dealings and learning everything you can about those in your network.
3. Save your money – Before you waste another dollar on fancy brochures, expensive advertisements and senseless promotions, develop a referral system. Your referral system must be focused on thanking every single person who passes along your company name, introduces an opportunity to you. Make it easy for people to refer business to you. Not about paying for leads or closed sales, true networking is much deeper. Do an awesome job when referrals come your way, after all your network colleague’s entire name and reputation is directly connected with everything that you and your company does. Make sure you team is completely aware of all referral sources.
4. Stop filling up the landfills – We continue to flood the market with junk mail and brochures that simply never make it to the person who needs to see it or if it does your pricy yet horrible brochureware will end up getting filed under “G”, which is garbage. We can all take a lesson from Jeffrey Gitomer on where your fancy and costly brochures end up. No one cares about your senseless brochures until requested.
5. Throw quotas, spiffs and rebates out the window – I do not care about your quota, what rebate you will extend or the spiffs on a certain product line and neither do those in your network. Effective business networking is not about referral fees and kickbacks. It is about providing the right solution to meet the needs of a client and doing a fantastic job. If your solution fits the need of a client, then you will enjoy an abundance of opportunities.
6. Follow Up – This is yours and almost every business owner plus salesperson’s worst nightmare. Effective follow separates the wanna be’s from those that have it all. You must follow up every single time, no room for excuses on this one. You need to follow up with people you meet, those that your business services and meetings you attend. Just do it, you will get better over time, it is better to do something than do nothing at all. Let me say this again, effective follow up is the key separator from those who are successful and those who continuously struggle to make ends meet.
7. It is all about service – At the end of the day, it is all about how you serve those around you. It starts with the initial referral, right thru follow up and service. It takes 7 – 12 touches before you have a good networking contact or client. How are you serving your network? Are you giving more than you are taking? Are you open to working hard for each of every referral? Do you share openly in a group or one on one? Great service will trump any great product, everyday! How are you servicing those around you?
What are opportunities? Do not become confused with every single opportunity. Do you look at this as something to sick your sales team on? Many opportunities can be people who may never purchase anything, but they carry a pretty big stick and loud voice in the community. These influencers or connectors are critical to meet and treat exceptionally well. These people talk to their friends, business associates and everyone else in their network. They will speak on your behalf – good or bad. Opportunities disguised as vendors, partners and other sales people do come across your plate. Are you awake enough to see them? You must never confuse a good prospect for a potential business colleague who can help your business. Never say, they are not the type of client we want, you never know who is in their network.
Remember: Your goal is to create a team of walking and talking ambassadors who promote your business everyday and you do the same for them without hesitation.
Creating a gushing stream of referrals is a very tiresome and rigorous journey; success comes to those who are persistent and committed to creating their own valuable business network. However, it does start with one small step, are you willing to take the first step to creating a gusher of referrals in your business?
Contributing blogger Stuart Crawford is VP of business development with Bulletproof InfoTech, a solutions provider in Alberta, Canada. Follow The VAR Guy via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; Twitter; and via his Newsletter; Webcasts and Resource Center.